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a disappointing biography about the homosexual relationship of two famous 19th century french poets .
the film managed to remove all the poetry from the poets and instead concentrated on their abrasive personalities .
the result is merely an academic exercise , leaving an emotional vacuum that it couldn't build on to show them as the poets they were .
on paper , this shouldn't have been so terrible -- it had a talented director in agnieszka holland ( " the secret garden " ) , a proven screenwriter in christopher hampton ( dangerous liaisons ) , and a capable cast .
but the film was done in by its inept script , the unappealing way the film was directed , and the miscasting of leonardo dicaprio as rimbaud .
i found his performance to be the most risible one in the film , with him acting more like a teenage brat than a young genius , spouting obsenities without giving a hint that a true poet lies behind that facade .
he , especially , looked bad because david thewlis as paul verlaine looked so good despite the turgid dialogue that was thrust upon him and how thin a character he was forced to be .
but when the two of them were together , it looked like a mismatch .
leonardo's rimbaud only made the young poet look petulant and crude , yet we know from rimbaud's poetry , that he must have had something going for him because his poetry was awe inspiring .
the film opens in post-revolutionary france in 1871 , the 16-year-old rimbaud has sent the established symbolist poet verlaine a letter with his poems .
he accepts verlaine's praises and invitation to be a house guest in his splendid paris home , and rimbaud leaves his sullen farm in rural charleville .
once there , rimbaud is disappointed in the bourgeoisie household , has an immediate conflict with verlaine's busty 18-year-old wife mathilde ( romane ) , and finds to his regret that the drunken verlaine loves his rich wife for her body and that he lives off her family's money , even though he has nothing else in common with her .
when verlaine states , " poets can learn from one another , " rimbaud replies in a haughty tone , " only if they're bad poets . "
he will continue to treat the older poet like dirt for the rest of their relationship .
verlaine proves to be weak-willed , beating his wife regularly , and plays just as despicable a character as rimbaud .
when mathilde's father kicks rimbaud out of the house , verlaine finds him in a rooming house and the two become lovers .
it's a real downer to watch this story unfold into a series of obnoxious behavior patterns on the part of the two poets , which leads them to traveling together and mathilde asking for a divorce .
in brussels , verlaine gets arrested for sodomy and spends two years in jail .
while rimbaud becomes angered at the literary world and never writes another poem after he becomes 19 .
he instead goes to north africa and becomes an adventurer and a gun-runner , and after ten years there , comes home with a tumor on his knee and dies a changed man at the age of 37 .
the hopeless relationship between the two is what the picture covers in detail and that was not very satisfying .
the film ends on a whimper . . . with
verlaine talking with rimbaud's sister about her brother and the poems of his he still possesses , which the sister wants destroyed so as not to embarrass the family or ruin the name of her deceased brother if published .
this film was especially annoying because rimbaud's poems are filled with a visionary tenseness that are not even approached in this film , as the film only manages to skim the surface of the lives of these poets and completely ignores the value of their poetry .
i have no idea what the filmmaker was trying to say in this film , but whatever it was , it just didn't work .
it certainly didn't bring any light into understanding what rimbaud meant to modern poetry and why he earned the reputation as the so-called father of modern poetry .
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